By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
BURLINGTON — Erin Stott was 28-1/2 weeks pregnant with her first daughter when a car accident changed both of their lives forever. Erin believes she survived the accident because of baby Makynna, who did not survive birth that June day in 2007. “She helped (keep) me from bleeding to death,” Erin told an audience of Christians gathered Aug. 5 at Crapo Park for the Burlington Faith Festival.
The three-day event featured Christian music, testimonials of faith, a walk-run, picnic and closing Mass. First Free Music from First Free Church in Onalaska, Wis., led the praise and worship music before and after Erin’s talk. Attendees raised their hands in praise of God, inspired by the spirited performances of First Free Music’s Aaron Luttenegger and his worship team that included his wife, Elizabeth. “Isn’t it good to be in church tonight?” Aaron asked the audience, seated in lawn chairs, park benches or folding chairs on a grassy hill overlooking the Mississippi River valley.
Faith Festival Director Heather Tieman introduced Erin, a wife and mother of three children and the secretary at Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish in West Burlington. Heather serves that parish and Ss. John & Paul in Burlington and St. Mary in Dodgeville as director of Evangelization and Renewal for Des Moines County Catholic Parishes.
Erin climbed the stairs to the band shell, looked out at her audience and said, “Mine is a story of gratitude.” She began by describing her childhood in a good Christian family in Indiana where she was taught to “treat others fairly” and “to never be a victim.” She grew into a confident, assertive young woman who had her whole life planned. That changed when she went to a college of a different Christian denomination. While there, she met and fell in love with another student who planned to become a minister. They married and had a son, Zion. Her first-born child’s love kept her going through an abusive marriage, she said. Her family, who lived a five-hour drive away, sensed what was happening and convinced her that she was not obligated to stay in an abusive marriage.
Later, as a single mom raising Zion, she met the true love of her life, Andy. They got married, and life seemed perfect. Erin and Andy were expecting their first daughter when Erin got in a car accident with Zion. She remembers before the accident feeling extremely nauseous and wanting to pull over into the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant where they had just placed an order. She blacked out and ended up on the busiest intersection in Burlington. When she awoke, she saw that her son’s forehead was bleeding. An emergency room doctor planned to release Erin after treating her, but Andy insisted on an ultrasound, which revealed that the baby was in distress and would have to be delivered that day.
Erin’s injuries were extensive. The placenta had torn and she had a lacerated liver and a tear in her bowel. But baby Makynna was positioned in a way that protected Erin from bleeding to death. “I knew that she had not lived,” Erin said sadly. She vowed to spend the rest of her life honoring “the sacrifice my unborn daughter made for me.” The baby’s tiny size provided inspiration. Because funeral gowns were too large, a hospital staffer suggested dressing the baby in doll clothes. “But my baby wasn’t a doll,” Erin said. Funeral gowns for premature babies were available online, but expensive. Erin’s sister purchased a gown online and paid for overnight delivery. That supportive gesture led Erin and Andy to pursue a dream to create “Butterflies for Makynna,” a project to provide funeral gowns for babies at no cost to their families. “We are looking for people who can sew gowns and knit or sew caps,” she told the audience. “We’re just asking for your time and talent.” Festival organizers also took a free will donation for the project, which generated $785.31.
Through life’s joys and sorrows, Erin remains focused on gratitude. “Making the decision to be grateful isn’t an easy choice,” she told the audience. “Gratitude helps me to see all the wonderful things in my life. Gratitude is so connected to faith … being grateful for what (God) has done for you.”
Erin expressed gratitude for people who hated her, because they taught her to be stronger. She expressed gratitude for those who loved her, because they have made her heart full. She expressed gratitude for those who listened to her, because they made her feel important. Finally, “I am grateful for people who stayed with me through all the different ups and downs of my life. You made me feel worthwhile and loved.”
Free will offerings from Burlington Faith Fest went to St. Vincent De Paul Food Pantry, Burlington ($562.80) and Butterflies for Makynna ($785.31). To assist with Butterflies for Makynna, contact Erin Stott or Sue Crabb at Ss. Mary & Patrick Catholic Church in West Burlington at (319) 752-8771 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To assist St. Vincent De Paul, call (319) 752-9332.